NEW YORK The U.N. Security Council voted 13-0 last night to sharpen its air and arms embargo on Afghanistan in an effort to compel the ruling Taleban militia to surrender Osama bin Laden and stop sheltering terrorists.
The resolution which imposed an international ban on arms sales to the Taleban and downgraded the regime’s diplomatic contracts inspired rare council cooperation between the United States and Russia.
However, it was opposed by human rights groups and even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan refused to endorse it.
“It’s not going to facilitate peace efforts, nor is it going to facilitate our humanitarian work,” Mr. Annan told reporters yesterday morning.
Appearing resigned, he noted repeatedly that the Security Council is master of its own agenda and that the rest of the organization would abide by its decision.
But the United States dismissed the concerns of the aid groups, saying that the sanctions targeted such nonhumanitarian sectors as foreign assets, drug production and the importation of weapons.
“This is a single-purpose [resolution] aimed at terrorism,” said U.S. delegate Nancy Soderberg. She noted that another resolution from last year had also demanded that the Taleban turn over bin Laden.
The measure passed in the Security Council by 13-0, with China and Malaysia abstaining.
The resolution also demands that states freeze bin Laden’s assets and refuse to sell chemicals used in opium production. Unlike most previous sanctions plans, this one will be reconsidered after one year.
It can be ended earlier if the Taleban renounces terrorism, hands over bin Laden, and shuts down military training camps on its territory.
The extremist Taleban is not recognized as a legitimate government by the United Nations or any but a handful of states. But even without powerful defenders of the Taleban, this sanctions resolution inspired more debate than might have been expected when Moscow and Washington co-sponsored the draft.
Human rights groups warned that freezing arms sales to the Taleban but not their opposition will prolong a war that has already raged for three years and deepened the hardship endured by the Afghan people.
In anticipation of the new measures, and potentially violent demonstrations to follow, the United Nations yesterday removed the last six foreign aid workers from the Central Asian nation.
“We are just leaving as a precautionary measure and hope to come back as soon as possible,” an unidentified U.N. official said in Kabul, the Afghan capital. “We have not felt threatened… . We need to come back and we need to go to work.”
In the interim, Afghan staffers will run the programs, which are the main source of food and vital services for much of the local population.
The new curbs on the Taleban an extremist Islamic faction that has ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist since claiming power in a 1997 military rout come in response to U.S. concerns that bin Laden, an indicted terrorist, and several suspects in the USS Cole bombing are sheltering under the Taleban’s protection.
The General Assembly, which has considered the matter of Afghanistan through it’s tortured history of foreign occupation, yesterday endorsed a resolution calling on nations to halt the supply of arms and training, and condemned human rights abuses.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, whose government was the first to recognize the legitimacy of the Taleban, appealed to nations not to worsen the humanitarian tragedy that began with Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
He noted that persistent warfare had plunged millions of civilians into near-famine conditions and said that 32,177 Afghans had sought refuge in Pakistan over the last three weeks.
The resolution called on nations to freeze the assets of bin Laden and any associates in his al-Qaida terror network, as defined by the U.N. sanctions committee. This is thought to be aimed at Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden has vast business interests.
In addition, the resolution called on the Taleban leadership to honor international agreements banning the production and trafficking of narcotics. Afghanistan has become a leading supplier of heroin under the Taleban, which used the proceeds to fund its holy war.